W. Basketball: Cerritos wins first round playoff game

The Falcons defeated Antelope Valley in the first round of the playoffs
The Falcons defeated Antelope Valley in the first round of the playoffs

Playing without her twin sister, Cerritos College freshman Jesenia Rendon (Carson HS) stepped up and scored 25 points in a 62-58 win over host Antelope Valley College in the first round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs on Wednesday. The Falcons (18-13), seeded #17, will now travel on Saturday to take on #1-seeded Palomar College in a 7:00 p.m. game. The playoff win over the #16-seeded Marauders (15-14) was their first since a 79-60 win over College of the Canyons during the 2011-12 season.

With freshman leading scorer Serena Rendon (Carson HS) out with an injury, the Falcons looked to a tight defensive approach to get past Antelope Valley. In the first half, they didn't have an answer for leading scorer Deja Smith, who produced 15 points. But a tighter second half approach resulted in Smith converting a meager two free throws, while the Maraunders looked inside to Shantanel Bivens, who led them with 22 points and 15 rebounds.

"I was really impressed with the defensive play of our team tonight," said head coach Trisha Kozlowski. "We were more effective in the second half and I thought everyone stepped up and did a great job in helping us win. We got key rebounds when we needed them and I thought Carolina Cuevas (Legacy HS) and Miranda Ta'amu (Los Alamitos HS) owned the boards at times."

After Antelope Valley opened the game by scoring the first four points, Cerritos responded with the next 13 points, thanks in part to a pair of three-pointers from sophomore guard Angie Ferreira (Long Beach Millikan HS) and another by Rendon. They led 20-11 after the first quarter, but the Marauders took advantage of several second quarter turnovers to eventually pull ahead, 26-24. AVC took a 30-27 lead into intermission, with the Falcons working their way back into a 38-38 tie with 3:43 left in the third quarter after a Ta'amu free throw.

Ferreira put the team in front, 41-38 with a three-pointer, while sophomore Alexis Clark (Mayfair HS) converted a three-point play with :17 seconds left in the third quarter for a 44-38 advantage. The Falcons maintained a seven-point lead in the third quarter after Rendon and Clark connected on jumpers. The lead dwindled to 51-47 after a pair of Bivens free throws with 5:52 left in the fourth quarter. Rendon came right down a drained a jumper, and after an Antelope Valley miss, Rendon dropped a three-pointer for a 56-47 lead. 

That advantage increased to 58-47 when Cuevas scored from short range, forcing an Antelope Valley timeout. A missed shot, followed a pair of offensive rebounds and consecutive missed three-pointers by the Marauders led the the final dagger when Cuevas grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a layup. Six straight points by Antelope Valley put the game at an eventual four-point win by the Falcons.

"I talked with the team about three games during the season that had the same characteristics that this game would have," said Kozlowski. "Our games against MiraCosta in the finals of the San Diego City Tournament, the overtime game against Mt. San Antonio in the Fullerton Tournament and our first game against Long Beach City helped us prepare for this game. We're still playing and we'll play as hard as we did today when we face Palomar on Saturday."

In addition to her 25 points, Rendon posted six rebounds, while Ferreira finished with 10 points and Ta'amu added eight points and eight rebounds. As a team, the Falcons were out-rebounded only 44-43, but received contributions from everyone.